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3.15am and mum called to say she was caught in terror alert

By Donna Deeney

Published 19/06/2015

A PSNI officer at Glenrandel in Eglinton.
A PSNI officer at Glenrandel in Eglinton.

Every reporter is trained to expect the unexpected and be prepared to go anywhere at any time.

But getting a call at 3.15am from your mother to say she has been caught up in a bomb alert was the last thing I expected.

My mother and father were among the 15 families evacuated out of their homes in Eglinton after a bomb was planted under the car of a police officer who lives nearby with his wife, also a police officer.

Driving the few miles from my home to Glenrandel where my parents have lived for almost 30 years, I was surprised at the emotions running through my own head - first and foremost concern about my parents.

They are in their late 70s and early 80s and neither are in good health.

My mother is a recovering cancer patient who still requires a lot of care and my father suffers from Parkinson's disease.

My main worry was their wellbeing, but I was caught unawares by how cross I was at the people responsible for the huge disruption.

A reporter's job is to be objective and remain outside any situation, but at 3.15am my objectivity was in short supply and overridden by anger at the bombers who forced my lovely wee parents out of bed, forced them into the darkness of night and forced them to stand at the end of their road in the cold.

A frail and elderly couple, married for almost 55 years, who have thankfully never been touched by the Troubles before now, were left confused and frightened, clutching their wee dog and waiting on me to come and take them away from their home, wondering when they would be able to return.

Of course, they were not alone. There were families with young children and others who should have been enjoying the last couple of hours of sleep before they had to rise and get ready for work or school.

Back at the scene six hours later, this time in my capacity as a reporter, there was real disbelief among the villagers that someone had actually planted a bomb in Eglinton, this quiet country village where "nothing ever happens".

Eglinton is a perfect example of how things should and could be everywhere in Northern Ireland. In fact, it could be transported to anywhere in England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland and it would slot in nicely.

It is void of the sectarianism that taints so many other places, there is a good mix of Catholic and Protestants living side by side and in many instances, like the two police officers targeted, living in the same house.

Your religion or your job mean nothing in Eglinton. People are neighbourly - they look out for each other, they stop and chat on the streets while they are out walking the dog or popping down to the shops and they just generally get along with each other.

This was demonstrated by the people from the village I spoke with, who were genuinely shocked that someone had crept into the place where they live and planted a bomb, and there was real concern for the two police officers who live in the house targeted.

Many of those I spoke with knew the couple and held them in high regard and what was evident from talking to the villagers was that the bomb attack would achieve nothing.

It wasn't going to drive a wedge between the community, it wasn't going to make one neighbour shun another because of how they earned their living.

In fact, it was pretty clear that the exact opposite was the case.

When the police cordon had been lifted and the TV cameras and reporters like me had gone away, Eglinton village returned to a fine example of what that much bandied about phrase "a shared space" is all about.

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